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LA County Reports 7,344 New COVID-19 Cases, 48 Deaths

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County health officials Monday continued to warn of the dangerous surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations the region is experiencing.

Skateboarders ride on the pier while wearing face masks due to Covid-19 restrictions in Manhattan Beach, California, December 12, 2020. - According to California health officials, ICU bed capacity in the Southern California region has dropped to 5.3% as more restrictive orders are imposed to prevent hospitals from being overrun. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 7,344 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 48 new deaths, bringing countywide totals to 532,730 total cases and 8,345 total deaths. Health officials said the number of cases was lower than expected due to a weekend reporting lag from one lab.

There were 4,203 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 21% of whom were being treated in intensive care units and 14% of whom were on ventilators.

The news came the same day Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center ran out of ICU beds.

"This morning we had no more ICU beds," Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer at LAC+USC, said. "We were completely full."

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county public health director, said that if not enough was done to stop the surge, the impact on the healthcare system could be devastating.

"The fear is that as we run into our surge plan and expand capacity out, it's really staff that's in limited supply," Spellberg said. "And if this continues for another couple weeks like this, when you have your car accident, where are you gonna go?"

Officials also reported that the number of available ICU beds in the county has fallen to 95, prompting calls for people in need of non-emergency medical care to go to urgent care clinics or primary physicians to ease the burden on the region's health system.

"Our reality is frightening at the moment," Ferrer said. "With over 4,200 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and almost half of our ICU beds occupied by COVID patients. By next weekend, there are likely to be over 5,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and more than 50% of our ICU beds will be occupied by COVID-19 patients."

And the Southern California region's ICU availability fell to 2.7% Monday, according to the state.

"If you are not playing by the rules, to put it blunt, at this point you are part of the problem, and you're contributing to the distressing increases that we see in cases, hospitalizations and deaths," Ferrer said.

And even though the first round of vaccine doses were being distributed, Ferrer said it would be months before there were enough doses available to immunize the millions of people who live and work in L.A. County, and called on people to continue wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and washing their hands.

"We are not to that light yet," Spellberg said. "And if we don't start taking this seriously that tunnel could collapse on us before we reach the light."

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